Point Lookout, Mo.—Box Score | Bracket Playing for the fourth time this season, No. 2 Indiana Wesleyan edged No. 1 Saint Francis 69-66 in an epic championship match-up between a pair of Crossroads League rivals.
The Wildcats hold the championship banner for the second time, also winning the title in 2014, both under the direction of IWU head coach Greg Tonagel. They end the season matching a school record for wins at 33-5.
Bob Peters scored 20 points and was among four IWU players to net double figures in tonight’s championship contest. Lane Mahurin poured in 18, including a free throw with 6.8 seconds left to put his team up two. Dynamic floor leader Jonny Marlin, the championship’s most outstanding player, scored 10 points and dished out four assists. Josh Mawhorr chipped in 10 points and five rebounds, all coming in the final half.
This was the first win for IWU over Saint Francis in four tries this season. The Cougars won both regular season games and the conference championship on March 1.
Indiana Wesleyan held its largest lead of the second half (58-51) with just over eight minutes left to go. Saint Francis senior Austin Fox, however, scored on three straight possessions, getting his team to within one and setting up an edge-of-your-seat final-five minute classic.
A Mahurin basket gave Indiana Wesleyan the lead for good and two free throws by Peters put the Wildcats in front by three. Both teams scored on their next possessions and a jumper by Kegan Comer made it a one-point game again, 67-66, with 31 seconds left.
USF forced a turnover to get the ball back and put the ball in the hands of Comer, whose jumper on the wing was just off, forcing the Cougars to foul Peters with six seconds left. The junior made 1-of-2 free throws to put Indiana Wesleyan up two (68-66) and gave the Cougars one last chance to tie or win it but a shot by Comer came up short and the Wildcats were fouled after securing the rebound with less than a second left.
Indiana Wesleyan shot 40% for the game and 56% (9-for-16) from the three-point line, making six of their first eight shots from beyond the arc, racing out to a 24-11 lead. USF rallied behind the play of its gritty backcourt, Comer and Seth Small, who combined to score 13 of their teams final 15 points to make it a six point game at the half, 32-26.
Comer led all scorers with 22 points for the Cougars, netting eight straight points to put his team in front briefly near the start of the second half. Bryce Lienhoop registered his third double-double of the championship with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Fox also had a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards. USF shot 39% for the game, the first time the Cougars were held under 40% at the Championship. Saint Francis ends its fantastic season with a 33-5 record.
“We couldn’t make a stop a month ago but this team bought in and won a national championship on defense,” said IWU head coach Greg Tonagel. “I am so proud of this team. We weren’t naturally a good defensive team but they bought in and became one just in time.”
2016 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball All-Championship Team:
Trae Bergh-Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.)
Kyle Steigenga-Cornerstone (Mich.)
Lucas Huffman-IU East (Indiana)
Kevin Rich-Davenport (Mich.)
Dominez Burnett-Davenport (Mich.)
Kegan Comer-Saint Francis (Ind.)
Bryce Lienhoop-Saint Francis (Ind.)
Austin Fox-Saint Francis (Ind.)
Bob Peters-Indiana Wesleyan
Lane Mahurin-Indiana Wesleyan
*Jonny Marlin-Indiana Wesleyan
*denotes 2016 Championship Most Outstanding Player
2016 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Most Outstanding Player-Jonny Marlin, Indiana Wesleyan
2016 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship Hustle Award-Vasha Davis, IU East
NABC/NAIA Division II Coach of the Year: Greg Tonagel, Indiana Wesleyan
Rawlings/NAIA Division II National Coach of the Year: Chad LaCross, Saint Francis
Dr. James Naismith/Emil Liston Team Sportsmanship Award: Dakota Wesleyan